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How to identify a silver quarter

Updated on February 3, 2013
This is a Washington Silver Quarter.
This is a Washington Silver Quarter.

Preface:

If you would like a more general article discussing all American Silver coins then I have another article available here.

The Washington Quarter is a piece of Silver that you will come by often as you are collecting coins or investing in physical Silver. The high availability due to high mintage numbers, and their generally young age makes these a very common coin to obtain, and has also given birth to the term "Junk Silver" which you may have heard. Like all other coins, there are key years and mints that are worth more money for their numismatic (collectible) value, but that is beyond the scope of this article.

Note for Beginners: If at any point throughout this article you are confused by a term, feel free to bookmark my article on the various terms and phrases that are common in Silver and Gold investing. It can be found here.

The date is located below the bust of George Washington, highlighted in red above.
The date is located below the bust of George Washington, highlighted in red above.

Identifying Silver Washington Quarters:

Silver Washington Quarters were minted between the years of 1932 - 1964. There were Silver Quarters minted after 1964 but these were restricted to mint sets which are collectible sets issues by the US Mint each year. These particular coins come with a premium that will exceed the value of their Silver so it makes them less attractive as a Silver investment.

The date of the Quarter is located just below the image of George Washington (see image above right) and this is one of the fastest ways to identify a Silver Quarter. Another quick way is to look at the edge. The edge should be a solid color completely. If the edge has any trace of a Copper or Brown color going around the center of the edge then this is a regular Quarter and the date should be later than 1964. This method is especially effective for searching rolls of Quarters quickly.

A Silver Quarter should weigh 6.25 grams and a clad (copper clad) quarter should weigh 5.67 grams. Because Quarters are so big, sorting them this way tends to be cumbersome and, unless automated, you are better off looking at the dates, or the edges when trying to identify content. As you become more experienced you'll be able to tell by look, feel and sound which ones are Silver. I would never rely completely on look feel and sound but it can speed up the process.

Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge

Composition:

The Silver Washington Quarter has an identical composition to other Silver circulating coins of this time, like the Silver Roosevelt Dime. It is composed 90% (5.625 grams) of Silver and 10% (.625 grams) of Copper. The reason for the Copper is to firm the coin up for circulation. It is because of this composition that coins that contain 90% Silver are often referred to as 90% Silver, Junk Silver, or .9 Silver.

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